If you haven’t already seen this Netflix series that mixes Hello Kitty cuteness with heavy death metal, you’re actually missing out.
In these days of content overload from countless streaming services, it’s becoming more rare to find a show that can separate itself with a distinct and unique voice. How many times have your eyes glazed over dozens of mediocre shows being advertised that look nearly identical to something you’ve seen before? This is one problem that Netflix’s “Aggretsuko” avoids. Even from just watching its trailer, you can immediately tell that it won’t be like any other show you’ve seen.
“Aggretsuko” is a Japanese anime musical comedy based on a character created for Sanrio. It aired 100 one-minute episodes under the title “Aggresive Retsuko” directed by Rarecho on TBS between 2016 and 2018. Shortly after, “Aggretsuko” was picked up by Netflix for a complete season.
The premise of “Aggretsuko” centers around an anthropomorphic red panda named Retsuko. Retsuko is a single, 25-year old office worker in the accounting department of a Japanese trading firm. She faces constant frustration at her boring job and life, as well as her infuriating co-workers and superiors. To let out her frustrations, Retsuko takes up singing death metal songs after work at a karaoke bar.
While the main appeal of “Aggretsuko” relies heavily on the gimmick of a cute little panda abruptly snapping into death metal renditions, it’s a pretty darn entertaining one. And rather than keep Retsuko as a flat, gimmicky character, the show actually owns it, and uses it as a catalyst for character development. In doing so, the show challenges preconceived notions about one of the least accessible genres of music.
Metal and Merit
Metal historically has a bad reputation for those who aren’t already fans of it as a genre. It’s one of those styles that people will often go out of their way to exclude when asked, “What do you listen to?” A typical response is something like, “Anything but __”, where the blank is filled by either metal, screamo, or country. This is a bit of a generalization, but in my experience at least, an accurate one.
The real genius in “Aggretsuko” comes from how relatable it is. Pairing humdrum office life with its polar opposite as a way to illustrate an individual’s resistance to becoming another worker drone is so satisfying to see. And infusing it with socially conscious messages is just the cherry on top.
Retsuko uses metal in an extremely feminist way. It’s a tool to empower herself, and an expression of her identity. If dealing with oppressive, chauvinistic bosses doesn’t make you want to rage, I don’t know what would.
It’s precisely for this reason that “Aggretsuko” brings merit and metal together. Metal is typically aggressive and masculine, with a fan base that reflects that. The choice to have a female office worker using metal as a therapeutic device for expression is powerful. It reclaims the genre for a whole new demographic, while simultaneously lifting up metal on a pedestal. What’s not to love about that?
You should watch “Aggretsuko”, whether you are a fan of metal, or think that you despise it. Either way, you’re likely to be surprised by what you find. And with episodes only 15 minutes long, you can easily binge watch the entirety of it in a few hours. Come for the cute red panda. Stay for the double bass drums and shredding licks.
After the first two seasons of “Aggretsuko” were a success, Netflix renewed it for a third season in August. The third season has no official release date yet, but should be coming out sometime next year.